Volume 48, No. 2

Search by author or title:

Records of White Tern Gygis alba in Panama and potential connections to El Niño events


1Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado Postal 0843-03092, Panama, Republic of Panama
2Biology Department, University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd, Boston, MA 02125, USA
3Universidad de Panama, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas, Naturales y Tecnologia. Panama, Republic of Panama


BUITRAGO-ROSAS, D., MEDINA, J.L. & CASTILLO-CABALLERO, P.L. 2020. Records of White Tern Gygis alba in Panama and potential connections to El Niño events. Marine Ornithology 48: 171 - 174

Received 24 March 2020, accepted 15 April 2020

Date Published: 2020/10/15
Date Online: 2020/06/29
Key words: El Niño Southern Oscillation, ENSO, White Tern, Gygis alba, Panama


In Panama, the White Tern Gygis alba is a vagrant seabird that has been reported very rarely. Its first record was in 1983, during a very strong El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event that generated a massive invasion of unusual seabirds from South America into the Panama Bay. Unlike other vagrant seabirds, the White Tern remained unrecorded again until 2016. This note reports the second, and first confirmed, occurrence of White Tern to Panama, along with separate confirmed sightings in 2019. We briefly review these records and their potential connections to ENSO events.


AINLEY, D.G., CARTER, H.R., ANDERSON, D.W. ET AL. 1986. ENSO effects on Pacific Ocean marine bird populations. In: OUELLET, H. (Ed.) Proceedings of the XIX International Ornithological Congress. Ottawa, Canada: University of Ottawa, pp. 1747-1758.

ANGEHR, G.R. & DEAN, R. 2010. The Birds of Panama: A field guide. Ithaca, USA: Comstock Publishing Associates.

ANGEHR, G.R. & KUSHLAN, J.A. 2007. Seabird and colonial wading bird nesting in the Gulf of Panamá. Waterbirds 30: 335-357.

BRINKHUIZEN, D. 2019. eBird Checklist: eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. Ithaca, USA: eBird. [Available online at: Accessed 12 March 2020].

DAYTON, P.K. & TEGNER, M.J. 1990. Bottoms beneath troubled waters: benthic impacts of the 1982-1984 El Niño in the temperate zone. Elsevier Oceanography Series 52: 433-472.

DUFFY, D.C. 1990. Seabirds and the 1982-1984 El Niño-southern oscillation. Elsevier Oceanography Series 52: 395-415.

DUNNING, J.B. 1993. CRC Handbook of avian body masses. Boca Raton, USA: CRC Press.

GARRIGUES, R. & DEAN, R. 2014. The Birds of Costa Rica, a Field Guide, 2nd. ed. Ilus. R. Dean. Ithaca, USA: Zona Tropical Publications, Cornell University Press.

GOURAUD, C. 2019. eBird Checklist: eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. Ithaca, USA: eBird. [Available online at: Accessed 12 March 2020].

KAUFMANN, K.W. 2012. Nuestros Humedales, Nuestro Futuro. Plan de Conservación para los Humedales de la bahía de Panamá. Ciudad de Panamá, Panamá: Sociedad Audubon de Panamá. 

LÓPEZ-VICTORIA, M. & ESTELA, F.A. 2006. Additions to the breeding seabirds of Malpelo Island, Colombia. Marine Ornithology 34: 83-84.

MONTOYA, M. 2008. Aves marinas de la Isla del Coco, Costa Rica, y su conservación. Revista de Biología Tropical 56: 133-149.

MURPHY, R.C. 1936. Oceanic Birds of South America Vol. I. New York, USA: American Museum of Natural History.

PITMAN, R.L., SPEAR, L.B. & FORCE, M.P. 1995. The marine birds of Malpelo Island, Colombia. Colonial Waterbirds 18: 113-119.

RIDGELY, R.S. & GWYNNE, J.A. 1989. A guide to the birds of Panama: with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Princeton, USA: Princeton University Press.

SCHREIBER, E. 1994. El Niño-Southern Oscillation effects on provisioning and growth in Red-Tailed Tropicbirds. Colonial Waterbirds 17: 105-119.

SMITH, N.G. 1990. The Gulf of Panama and El Niño events: The fate of two Refugee Boobies from the 1982-83 Event. Elsevier Oceanography Series 52: 381-393.

SPEAR, L.B. & AINLEY, D.G. 1999. Seabirds of the Panama Bight. Waterbirds 22: 175-198.

SULLIVAN, B.L., WOOD, C.L., ILIFF M.J., BONNEY, R.E., FINK, D. & KELLING, S. 2009. eBird: A citizen-based bird observation network in the biological sciences. Biological Conservation 142: 2282-2292.

THORUP, K., ORTVAD, T.E., HOLLAND, R.A., RABØL, J., KRISTENSEN, M.W. & WIKELSKI, M. 2012. Orientation of vagrant birds on the Faroe Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Journal of Ornithology 153: 1261-1265.

VAN DORT, J. 2018. Seabirds in the Gulf of Fonseca, Pacific Central America, during El Niño 2015/16. Marine Ornithology 46: 71-77.

WIEDENFELD, D.A. 2006. Aves, the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Check List 2: 1-27.

WINKER, K. 2000. Obtaining, preserving, and preparing bird specimens. Journal of Field Ornithology 71: 250-297.

Search by author or title:

Browse previous volumes: